An evening shared with close friends is hard to beat, and this week I had the opportunity to cook and dine with my close friends, the Parkers. I have worked with Jane Parker at Williams-Sonoma for years; her daughter Annie is a very good friend of mine and possesses fearless taste. Jane is an exquisite cook and hostess, and whenever she opens her house to entertain there is an absolute certainty there will be fine food, great style, and a completely relaxed evening. (I’m still taking notes on how to execute a gathering as well as Jane!) Read on for a photo gallery of our fresh-from-the-yard meal, and the recipe for an amazing Italian crudo…
It so happens that Annie Parker’s garden has brought forth bushels of cucumbers, herbs, and of course a fabulous abundance of tomatoes this summer. The previous evening to our meal, the three of us contemplated what to make and considered what was fresh, available, and at the furthest… thirty feet away. These raw ingredients, fresh from the yard, provided the inspiration for our meal. The next day, we gathered in the garden at dusk to harvest what was ripe and plentiful. Young spring onions, basil, mint, jalapenos, tomatoes.
The menu was simple; we would buy bread, meat, and fish. Everything else would come from the garden or our pantries. We decided to make an Italian Crudo (similar to ceviche), a simple tomato bruscetta, and Serrano ham crostinis. All small plates, all bursting with garden-fresh flavor, and all completely satisfying.
The centerpiece of our meal was the crudo; and it was such fun to make. We were all amazed at the simplicity of the preparation, the amazing texture of the finished dish, and the clean and distinct flavors that it delivered. This is definitely a dish that is greater than the sum of its parts! Adapt the recipe to your liking; we used what was available and seemed right; but after the basic curing with lime juice (it takes one hour), the fish becomes a blank slate able to be adorned, accompanied, or supported by any number of different flavors. We can’t wait till the next time we make crudo so that we can experiment with different flavor combinations. The options are limitless!
I’ve included photos of Jane preparing the crudo, plus our crostini and bruscetta. We topped the Serrano ham bruschetta with Red Tomato Preserves, which you may view in a previous blog post.
A quick note about the fish: only use the freshest, best cut you can find. Quality goes a long way with fish, there’s no way around it. Whatever fish you buy, make sure that it has no odor. The fish should faintly smell of the sea; nothing more.
Ours was an absolutely marvelous menu supported by none but the best ingredients – those from the yard. Take time to hunt, pick, and savor what’s fresh around your yard (or perhaps your neighbors) and see what culinary adventures your ingredients can take you on! Best eating, best times, and best of all – best time spent.
Italian Halibut Crudo with Mint Recipe
1 generous pound fresh halibut filet, well chilled
Juice of 5 to 6 limes
Dash kosher salt
Spring onions, sliced finely, white and green parts divided
1 tomato, skinned and finely diced
Rind of 1 lemon, yellow part only, finely diced
½ jalapeno, seeds removed, finely diced
Handful of mint leaves, cut into shiffonade
Pinch red pepper flakes
Sea salt to garnish
Place the halibut filet on a work surface and with a very sharp knife, slice it into two thin steaks. Thinly slice the steaks into fine long pieces. Place into a large non-reactive bowl, cover with lime juice, and add the white parts of the spring onion. Cover and place into the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours. Meanwhile, prepare the remaining ingredients.
Once you have your remaining ingredients ready to assemble with the cured fish, it’s only a matter of mixing. In the same bowl you’ve cured the fish in, place the skinned diced tomatoes, diced lemon rind, diced jalapeno, schiffonade mint leaves, and pepper flakes. Toss gently with your hands. Transfer to a serving bowl, and garnish with a light sprinkling of sea salt.
The crudo is now ready to eat. Serve on a plate with crackers or bread, or simply by itself.